Hume Essay, Research Paper
In explaining Hume?s critique of the belief in miracles,
we must first understand the definition of a miracle. The
Webster Dictionary defines a miracle as: a supernatural event
regarded as to define action, one of the acts worked by Christ
which revealed his divinity an extremely remarkable
achievement or event, an unexpected piece of luck. Therefore,
a miracle is based on one?s perception of past experiences,
what everyone sees. It is based on a individuals own reality,
and the faith in which he/she believes in, it is based on
interior events such as what we are taught, and exterior
events, such as what we hear or see first hand.
When studying Hume?s view of a miracle, he interprets or
defines a miracle as such; a miracle is a violation of the
laws of nature, an event which is not normal to most of
mankind. Hume explains this point brilliantly when he states,
?Nothing is esteemed a miracle, if it has ever happened in the
common course of nature. It is no miracle that a man
seemingly in good health should die on a sudden.? (Hume p.888)
Hume states that this death is quite unusual, however it
seemed to happen naturally. He could only define it as a
true miracle if this dead man were to come back to life. This
would be a miraculous event because such an experience has not
yet been commonly observed. In which case, his philosophical
view of a miracle would be true.
Hume critiques and discredits the belief in a miracle
merely because it goes against the laws of nature. Hume
defines the laws of nature to be what has been ?uniformly?
observed by mankind, such as the laws of identity and gravity.
He views society as being far to liberal in what they consider
to be a miracle. He gives the reader four ideas to support
his philosophy in defining a true miracle, or the belief in a
miracle. These points leads us to believe that there has never
been a miraculous event established.
Hume?s first reason in contradicting a miracle is, in all
of history there has not been a miraculous event with a
sufficient number of witnesses. He questions the integrity of
the men and the reputation in which they hold in society. If
their reputation holds great integrity, then and only then can
we have full assurance in the testimony of men. Hume is
constantly asking throughout the passage questions to support
proof for a miracle. He asks questions such as this; Who is
qualified? Who has the authority to say who qualifies? As he
asks these questions we can see there are no real answers, in
which case, it tends to break the validity of the witnesses to
Hume?s second reason in contradicting the validity of a
miracle is that he views all of our beliefs, or what we choose
to accept, or not accept through past experience and what
history dictates to us. Furthermore, he tends to discredit an
individual by playing on a human beings consciousness or sense
of reality. An example is; using words such as, the
individuals need for ?excitement? and ?wonder? arising from
miracles. Even the individual who can not enjoy the pleasure
immediately will still believe in a miracle, regardless of the
possible validity of the miracle. With this, it leads the
individual to feel a sense of belonging and a sense of pride.
These individuals tend to be the followers within society.
These individuals will tend to believe faster than the leaders
in the society. With no regard to the miracles validity,
whether it is true or false, or second hand information.
Miracles lead to such strong temptations, that we as
individuals tend to lose sense of our own belief of fantasy
and reality. As individuals we tend to believe to find
attention, and to gossip of the unknown. Through emotions and
behavior Hume tends to believe there has been many forged
miracles, regardless if the information is somewhat valid or
His third reason in discrediting the belief in a miracle
is testimony versus reality. Hume states, ?It forms a strong
presumption against all supernatural and miraculous events,
that they are observed chiefly to abound among ignorant and
barbarous ancestors; or if civilized people has ever given
admission to any of them, that people will be found to have
received them from these barbarous ancestors, who transmitted
them with that inviolable sanction and authority, which always
attend perceived opinions.? (Hume p.891) In any case many of
the miraculous events which happened in past history would not
be considered a miracle in today?s world, or at any other time
in history. The reality most people believed at that period,
as a result can be considered lies or exaggerations. Hume
discredits the miracle as to the time period in which the
miracle is taking place, the mentality, or the reality of
individuals at that given time. Hume suggests that during
certain times in history we are told of miraculous accounts of
travelers. ?Because we as individuals love to wonder, there
is an end to common sense, and human testimony, in these
circumstances, loses all pretensions to authority.? (Hume
The final point Hume gives to discredit the validity of a
miracle is that there must be a number of witnesses to
validate the miracle. ?So that not only the miracle destroys
the credit of testimony, but the testimony destroys itself.?
(Hume p.892). This basically means that the witnesses must
all give the exact same testimony of the facts of the event.
Hume finds difficulty in the belief or integrity of any
individual, and the difficulty of detecting falsehood in any
private or even public place in history. ?Where it is said to
happen much more when the scene is removed to ever so small a
distance.? (Hume p.892) A court of justice with accuracy and
judgment may find themselves often distinguishing between true
and false. If it is trusted to society through debate, rumors,
and mans passion
it tends to be difficult to trust the validity of the miracle.
Throughout the rest of the readings Hume states a few
events which many believe are miracles. He discredits many
these miracles through his critiques. I have chosen to
illustrate two ?so-called? miracles from the New American
Bible and to show how Hume would view these miracles. The
stories are of Noah?s Ark and The Burning Bush.
The story of Noah?s Ark took place when the Lord began to
realize how great mans wickedness on earth had become. He
began to regret the fact that he had created man on earth.
The lord decided the only way to rid the wickedness would be
to destroy all men, and all living creatures living on the
earth. The only men in which he would not destroy were to be
Noah, his sons, Noah?s wife and his sons wives. He also would
save a pair of animals. Of each species. The rest were to
perish from the earth. He chose Noah to be the favor and
carry out the task. The Lord requested Noah to build a ark
explained exactly how it was to be made. Noah spent six
hundred years of his life building the ark in which God
insisted upon. When the ark was finally complete The Lord
told Noah it was time to gather the selected few the floods
were about to come. These floods lasted forty days and forty
nights. The floods wiped out all living creatures on earth,
except all on the ark. In the six hundred and first year of
Noah?s life the floods stopped and the earth began to dry.
Noah then built an alter to the Lord and choosing from every
clean animal he offered holocaust on the alter. As God states
?Never again will I doom the earth because of man, since the
desires of man?s heart are evil from the start; nor will I
ever strike down all living beings, as I have done.?
In deciding upon whether this is a valid miracle in
Hume?s opinion of miracles I believe he would consider it to
be a miracle but, would have a hard time validating the
testimony of it. The reasons in which he would criticize the
validity with in the testimony would be as follows. The
testimony versus the reality. To further support the theory
he would argue the time period in which the miracle had taken
place. And would find it difficult to believe with out a
reasonable doubt. There is a question to whether it could be
lies or exaggerations. Furthermore, it could not possibly be
a validated miracle considering the amount of men in which
witnessed the event. As well a s questioning the integrity of
the men. Although this miracle was a act of God we can still
question the validity of our ancestors or God for that matter.
Hume would not be satisfied not only with the integrity of the
individuals but the amount of witnesses at the given time.
Therefore we can only view this as a miracle depending upon
our own individual perceptions of what we believe to be true.
This leads to a non uniform event since we as individuals hold
different beliefs of what we hold true, and false.
The second miracle in which I will discuss was that
of Moses and the burning bush. As Moses was working in the
fields a angel of the Lord appeared to him in fire flaming out
of the holy bush. Almost amazing the bush was full of flames
but was yet not consumed. As he walked closer he heard the
voice, the voice of God telling Moses he was the chosen one to
take the Israelite?s out of Egypt away from the cruel hands of
the Egyptians. In disbelief that he was the chosen one he set
forth on his journey to Egypt with God watching over him and
leading the way. As Moses leads the Israelite?s out of Egypt
he comes to the Red Sea with the Egyptians close behind. As
the bible explains the miracle takes place the Red Sea splits
leading the Israelite?s to freedom. As the Egyptians were
crossing the sea it closed it?s gates and let them drown with
in the waters of the sea. In justifying whether Hume would
discredit this miracle he would definitely see how one may say
it is a miracle, but again would have a hard time validating
the testimony of the miracle. Again we see the pattern of the
fact that there is no one to testify for the event. We can
only view this as a truthful experience through our belief in
God and the bible. It is what we are taught to believe
through religious texts, and our house of worship. It is the
individuals perception of reality and what he or she believes
to be a valid event.
In conclusion, a miracle is actually based on an individuals own
perception of past and present experiences. The belief in a miraculous event
tends to have no real evidence through mans hope, it tends to be something
better through our expectations. I can not debate the belief of a miracle.
There is no right or wrong belief. It is viewed through our own individual
perception and faith, our existence and sense of reality.